If you’ve been a nurse practitioner (NP) student for the past 3, 4, or more years and you’re planning to take a national certification exam weeks or months after graduation, here’s something to consider: The day after you take the exam, get on a plane and leave that long hard obstacle-ridden road behind you. It’s one of the best things you will do for yourself.
Leave It All Behind
Nurses who enter graduate schools to become nurse practitioners often have established careers as well as significant obligations: family; home; mortgage; and in some cases, student loans taken to help get through undergraduate and later, graduate programs. For most nurses, entering an NP program means juggling work and other obligations with NP education. Even for nurses who may be single without or with children, managing 8- or 12-hour day or night shifts while maintaining a rigorous academic schedule of classroom and clinical work is a daunting, often sleep-deprived course that goes on for a number of years. Many NP students ask the same question of themselves in the last semester that they asked in the first: Why am I doing this to myself?
In that final semester, with the added stress of completing academic work including a thesis or dissertation; making sure clinical hours meet academic, state, and certification board requirements; planning graduation; completing applications for taking a national certification exam, an exam that determines the ability to be hired as a nurse practitioner and tests everything you’ve learned about patient and disease management over the past years; take the time to plan a getaway.
Why You Need to Get Away
For years, you’ve been on the work-school wheel, and living with a great deal of stress without realizing that your mind, body, and spirit have paid a price. Ask yourself how you’ve coped while fulfilling the role of worker, student, spouse, parent, responsible adult child, etc., and you may realize you haven’t taken toll of this situation or its effects-not enough exercise, poor eating and sleeping habits, lack of social activities, not enough time or dedication to important relationships, and other unhealthy and ineffective coping methods. In other words, you may be suffering from cumulative stress. If you’re a healthcare provider or a health enthusiast, you know that health extends beyond the absence of disease, and you also know that in our desire to succeed we often sacrifice the pillars of wellness-sleep, diet, exercise, and relaxation.
The day after the certification exam is the chance to begin to repair your mind, body, and spirit from years of recurrent and often-unrelenting stress independent of whether you receive the results of your exam immediately after taking it, or you have to wait a week or two for the results. If you plan a getaway that begins the day after the exam, you won’t have time to sit around and question your performance on the exam.
My trip to Spain began once I finished my exam: packing, arranging transportation to the airport, and meeting with my travel friend Stephanie early the following morning. We flew from NY to Frankfurt to Madrid (Don’t ask. I’ll just say that waiting to make plans often means taking an indirect route to your destination.), and meeting up with the tour in Madrid. And because it was a tour, all our tour guide required was that we meet at designated times and places. Almost everything-transportation, hotel arrangements, dinners, sightseeing tours-were prearranged as part of the package. We travelled stress-free with much to do, see, learn, enjoy, and of course relax alone or with other tour members at cafes, tapas bars, or while sitting on a sun-kissed Mediterranean beach and sharing a baked sea salt-crusted whole fish while sipping on cava or sangria.
Yes, it was a fantastic trip, but even more than a great vacation it was chance to pause after 3 years of nonstop action on the work-school wheel to reconnect with the beautiful and for 3 years the lost world that existed outside of career and academics.
In the pursuit of personal accomplishments we often forget to pause, take a breath, recover, value and enjoy life.
So for my soon to be NP colleagues and for anyone who has worked for years to accomplish a goal amidst seemingly overwhelming obstacles, stop, take a breath, getaway, and heal thy self.
Links and Articles in This Blog
- How to Cope with Stress on the Job
- The Life of a Nurse Practitioner Student, or “What Have I Done?“
- 10 Ways to De-stress Your Mind and Body
- The Theory of Cumulative Stress: How to Recover When Stress Builds Up